- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

As we begin a more detailed weekly fishing report, every day appears to be windblown, making enjoyable boating a tough chore.

However, fish can be caught. It begins with the tidal Potomac River, which turns up largemouth bass by the dozens for enterprising bassboaters. One of our local fishing guides had an outing several days ago that delivered 81 bass for his clients. He was fishing over the top of emerging aquatic grasses on the main stem of the river. His favorite lures have been a green pumpkin crawfish imitation, a 4-inch red ribworm and smartly retrieved spinnerbaits.

In the mountain streams of Virginia and Maryland, wader-wearing trout anglers are doing quite well on good numbers of stocked fish. However, in other mountain waters — the upper Potomac and Rappahannock, for example — the river levels are as low as they might be in August, which slows down the smallmouth bass fishing. Recent rains have helped, but more is needed. Many of the smallmouths now are looking for traditional, gravel-covered spawning grounds but find them too shallow. They will manage as they check out clear river eddies to begin their spawning.

In the Chesapeake Bay, the trollers are out from the Magothy River down to Point Lookout — all of them hunting for stripers in anticipation of the trophy rockfish season that begins April 15. Currently, the fish must be released, and the charter boat captains are doing just that as they find increasing numbers of 33-inch-and-up fish. A 33-incher is required in Maryland this year if anyone hopes to keep one when the trophy season begins.

Down in the Virginia Beach area, our friend Ken Neill passes along word that a possible all-tackle world record blueline tilefish was hooked Sunday in the Atlantic by his boating partner, Bob Manus. The tilefish weighed 153/4 pounds. If approved by the International Game Fish Association, it will beat the current world record, a 15-pounder caught in New Jersey last year.

E-mail Gene Mueller at [email protected].

(RATINGS KEY: ****=EXCELLENT FISHING; ***=GOOD; **=FAIR; *=POOR.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461), Leslie said catch-and-release rockfish and shad are caught by rental boaters, although a few of the shoreline rock-hoppers score, too. White perch have not yet arrived in great numbers. Few are hooked. Down river, tidal water bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are finding quality largemouths in the main stem from the District down toward the Mattawoman Creek. The trick is to locate a broad strip of emerging aquatic vegetation in three to six feet of water and carefully work over such areas with spinnerbaits, lipless rattle lures, 4-inch worms in red or plastic crawfish imitations like the Wacky Craw, the YoMama Craw or the Mann’s Hard Nose Craw in green pumpkin colors. Down around Marshall Hall, shoreline anglers with long surf rods are casting worm or crab baits out, hoping to hook white perch. Some score; others don’t. However, a few hefty catfish are found this way. Past the Route 301 bridge in Charles County, it’s still a bit early for the croakers, but it never hurts to call one of the croaker boat rental hotspots, Quade’s Store on the Wicomico River in Bushwood in St. Mary’s County, 301/769-3903. The people there will keep you posted with the latest information. April is the month when the croakers show up.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Bass hounds have found good action on plastic craws and rattle baits over emerging, submersed weed beds near the mouth, as well as inside the creek — some of them as far up as the railroad tracks. We haven’t heard of many crappies being caught, but they should be willing to take live minnows or smartly jigged grub or dart in flooded trees and brush.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (**) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) hasn’t shown much action just yet. Bass can grow big in there, though they must be released during the closed season. The latest word from St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) is that the repairs on the dam and a overflow discharge valve have not yet been completed, which is a shame. A few sunfish, bass and pickerel are hooked by shoreline walkers.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (**) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) will offer early catch-and-release bass and plenty of panfish.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Catch-and-release bass fishing can be fine if you use 4-inch red ribworms or green pumpkin imitation lizards and crawfish. Deep crankbaits worked around jutting lake points also can produce. Don’t forget to give the crappies a shot now. Find some waterlogged brush, fallen trees or rock formation that sit in three to five feet of water and quickly falling layers nearby. Take a 1/16-ounce or 1/8-ounce white hair jig and tie it to 6- or 8-pound mono; snap on a bobber about three or four feet above the lure and cast it out, let it settle, then gently shake the rod tip to give the lure some movement. The crappies will do the rest and you may keep them for dinner.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — The upper Patuxent should be producing white perch but don’t expect the big females to be there just yet. They’re a bit late this year. Lower river boaters are sprucing up their craft and, in anticipation of the coming trophy season, making test runs to see where the rockfish are.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — In the area of Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) and uplake stretches, many bass have moved into shallower water, and a variety of soft plastics, spinnerbaits or medium-depth crankbaits will see action. Look also for the crappie fishing to improve daily.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Bass have gone shallow and the crappie are beginning to school up in brush piles and sunken tree branches. Try soft plastics and slowly retrieved spinnerbaits for bass. The crappies just as soon would look at a live minnow or a jigged plastic grub.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (**) — Fisheries biologist John Mullican says the river in Washington County and below remains at summer levels and the fishing has been tough. However, with rising water temperatures, the smallmouth bass ought to enter their prespawn mode. Look for quiet eddies that show a gravel bottom and use short plastic worms, spinners, jigs or jerk baits to see whether you can entice one of the brown fish to strike. A large spinnerbait tied to strong monofilament line might find a tiger muskie hiding under fallen tree branches but don’t expect them to hang out in two feet of water. Look for the deeper holes.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) says the fish are “waking up” at this fine lake. The water temperatures are rising slowly, and more fish activity was noted in the past week. Smallmouth bass like gold and red color spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Tube baits attract largemouth bass around deep-water docks and lake points, while the minnow dunkers hook yellow perch and some trout or walleyes.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — Reel Bass Adventures fishing guide Karl Bunch (cell phone 410/459-7445) is out checking on the largemouth bass and also finds catch-and-release stripers. On the Susquehanna Flats, 5-inch-long Bass Assassins and similar plastic jerkbaits have produced small stripers. The wind has been a problem, but the boaters are here, and they’re hoping for bigger rockfish to show up. One thing that must be remembered: Watch your engine noise. If you’re in five to 10 feet of water, don’t be motoring back and forth constantly. It spooks the fish.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (*) — From Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com), on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, Christy Henderson says her boating customers are preparing for the April 15 start of the trophy season. Most of the St. Mary’s, Calvert, Anne Arundel and Eastern Shore counties boating crowd are out doing catch-and-release fishing. Some decent fish are beginning to be noted, too, thank you. Meanwhile, it won’t be long and croakers should show up on the ends of baited hooks. It will happen down around Point Lookout and inside the Lower Potomac River and will spread all around in no time. Last year wasn’t super for croaker fishing, although certain areas in the Chesapeake produced better than others. Let’s hope this season will be much better for everybody.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association said in reference to the lower Chesapeake, “The dogwoods are blooming, which means black drum should be here with big reds soon to follow. It will probably be a few weeks before anyone gets out to give them a try but I bet they will be early this year. Gray trout too, the few that are still out there.” Neill says he’s hooking big croakers inside his home creek, not far from Lynnhaven Inlet. Tautog are biting on structures inside the bay. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is red-hot right for the ‘togs and for flounder. Flounder catches are also made on the bay side of the Eastern Shore.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) A few rockfish are hooked in the mouth, but it’s the upper river that bassboaters are targeting. The largemouths are in a prespawn mode, and they’re smacking the daylights out of crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastics around creek mouth points and over emerging spatterdock and submersed vegetation. The areas around Denton and above are fine. If it’s white perch you’re looking for, the upper river will have small males, but the big females haven’t shown up.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The Snow Hill stretch and above will see white perch taking small spinners or erratically retrieved shad darts. The flooded tree roots and slowly growing water weeds hold bass — plenty of them. Try a Mann’s One-Minus crankbait or a 1/4-ounce chartreuse/white spinnerbait and you will score.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp on Marshyhope Creek) Marshyhope Creek and some upriver emerging grass beds have been good for bass that like shallow crankbaits, small spinnerbaits and plastic worms. Expect a Bass Assassin or Zoom jerkbait to be struck by stripers from Vienna down toward the mouth early and late in the day if you work the tides properly.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Dick Fox of Front Royal has been doing well at Anna, hooking bass up to seven pounds on a variety of lures. Water temperatures are running from 55 to 60 degrees, and you can bet that some powerful spawning activity will take place in no time — if it isn’t under way already. In the backs of creeks, also around secondary points and sunken wood, spinnerbaits with willow leaf blades do well. Carolina-rigged plastic worms also can score, as will a half-dozen other lures. Seeing feeding stripers on the main lake is a possibility, but locations and activity is difficult to predict, even though the Splits can be a good place to start.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Low water levels have not made the shad search easy. Virginia biologist John Odenkirk said he’s seen a few hickories, but not nearly the numbers that should be here. Blame the extremely low river flow on that. Since the rains we’ve had, the weekend might see a few more, maybe also some white perch. Lower tidal river will give up some bass in the creek entrances from Hicks Landing down to and beyond Port Royal. Last week’s report that the white perch already had visited and had finished spawning was wrong. The fellow who passed it along is off our list.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass and crappies are active. Give them a try. The bass love a slow-rolled spinnerbait or a plastic crawfish around obstructions.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass haven’t turned on real good, but crappies and catfish are available in good numbers.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Crappies and bass are active. The bass are in the backs of creeks and around shallow stump fields on the main lake. Jerkbaits and soft crawfish, lizards and 4-inch worms do well.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie and catfish opportunities abound. One crappie contest was won with a 10-fish bag that weighed more than 19 pounds. The bass are looking for spawning sites or already have cleared them. Check out the far ends of coves and creeks with soft plastics or shallow crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) Strong wind has made fishing tough here as it has everywhere else, but some catfish, crappies and bass are caught. Herring are still flitting about at Walker’s Dam.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Lots of rockfish and blue catfish. You must release the rockfish if they strike bottom-fished catfish baits.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas show pretty good bass catches considering the water flow is down. Small crankbaits, tubes, grubs, jigs or spinners will get the job done.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (**) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Striper action is fair to good for trollers using Redfins or Sassy Shad rigs. Largemouth bass catches are not good.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Low water flow has slowed bass catches, but some are available to waders using streamers or various spinner lures or soft plastic grubs.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The DNR’s Keith Lockwood said surf water temperature is in the 45 degree range, and you’ll see a rockfish being hooked in the surf now and then. Inside the Ocean City Inlet the tuatogs and flounder are beginning to stir. If water temperatures rise to the mid-50s, watch out. Fishing will be fine. Lockwood said the bulkheads from Second Street to Fourth Street and the ends of Fifth and Sixth streets have been a favorite for those looking for tautog from the shoreline. Large tautogs have been taken from nearby ocean wrecks.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Check out the wonderful flounder fishing some of the backwater boat drifters have already had in Wachapreague, also in back of Chincoteague and Metompkin inlets. Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association reports puppy drum and tautogs around Rudee Inlet, with sea bass and tilefish available in offshore waters. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.


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